Monday, May 5, 2008

Flora Horror

This is pretty much exactly where I might have hoped trends in landscaping wouldn't go.  It's pretty disgusting.

It seems to be plaguing Palm Springs, and who knows where else, but basically they strip every last vestige of anything natural from the land, and replace it with these stark, emotionless, dehumanizing geometric arrangements of plantings and other features:


Those aren't too terrible, but this one is exceptionally fugly:

Needless to say, Nature has a beauty all unto itself--and especially in the desert, which is one of the most startling, vibrant ecosystems on the entire planet.  It may be arrogant to believe we could ever hope to improve on the beauty of a virgin landscape.  And ultimately, we want to touch absolutely nothing, disturb nothing.  At the far end of this scale, houses that hover on slender piers, resting by the tip of a pin on the landscape, approached by wooden pathways barely touching the ground.

Honestly, though, I'm not sure how realistic that is.  And as much as we've already destroyed enough habitats around the world, I'm not sure I can see very sensitively personalizing, pruning, artistically enhancing one's property as a crime deserving of cruel and unusual punishment.

Certainly the natural landscape should be respected, first and foremost.  The previous (animal, insect) inhabitants should be able to stay, unfettered, to live a life of spiritual fulfillment.  Water run-off and geology all need to be understood and accounted for, I think that's a given.

Personally, if I were approaching untouched land with the idea to build, I definitely wouldn't cut down any major trees or anything, but I might look at some of the native flowering plants already on the property and other pleasant vegetation, examine where they've ended up on their own to not mess with it too much, and very carefully replant things into some kind of order.  Like replant five bushes so they're in size order, or adjust two patches of wildflowers so they'll be symmetrical, even out stones and boulders where they are so they can form paths and stairs, clip grasses so they don't look unruly in some places but let them grow untouched in others, and so on.  That way, you're not killing anything, you're not removing anything, you're not introducing anything foreign, but rather exploiting patterns in what's already there.  In other words, working with the land to make it into landscape.

So I think there is some respectful, ecologically sensitive middle-ground here.  This full-scale stripping of the land is a travesty, though, and it's hard to believe this is even happening in 2008.  

The worst of it all is the trend of shaving palm trees.  It gives the trunk this smooth, hard edged profile:
--photos Irfan Khan/ LA Times
Not only is this ridiculous and cruel to do to an innocent tree and look kind of scrawny and dumb, but it also destroys the habitat for countless creatures who might live in the "skirts" of the palm's bark.  It's a disgrace and--as the article points out--while this is being done to accent mid-century homes, the whole trend is completely antithetical to what the Modernists were trying to do.

On a somewhat more pleasant and less controversial note, Christie's Auction House has just unveiled their full-service website, which allows you to search for items, keep track of lots and auctions, bid online, and pretty much everything, all while sitting around in your underpants, ya big slob.

©2008, Ryan Witte

3 comments:

bronxelf said...

I really would love to see some ridiculous red or orange desert flowering cactus in that shot with the aqua wall. Big ones that defy the geometric nature of the wall behind it as well as contrast the color in the most profound way possible.

PS- Are you going to see Zaha Hadid on Friday night?

Ryan Witte said...

What do you mean "see" her? And why did I not know about this?

bronxelf said...

She's doing a talk at Pratt on Friday night. As to why you don't know, who do I look like, Kreskin? I have no idea. The only reason I know is because Jack told me.

I'm scheduled to be on the jury at the FIT design finals enjoying a "HA HA, it's not ME!!!" day, but after that I am headed to Brooklyn to listen to her.